A video leaked to TMZ from the set of the film A Dog’s Purpose shows the alleged abuse of a German Shepherd Dog being forced into a water rapids pool by his handler. The clearly terrified dog, named Hercules, struggles to get away as his handler pulls him back and dips him into the water. Then Hercules frantically attempts to climb out of the pool as the handler pushes him down further into the rapids.
A bystander watching the frightened pup can be heard saying, “It’s warm water at least. He ain’t gonna calm down until he goes in the water. Just gotta throw him in.” Moments later Hercules can be seen struggling to swim in the rapids and dipping below the waves as the panicked production team yells, “Cut it!”
The law states that an American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative must be present when filming with animals, even outside the United States, for any production that is associated with the Screen Actors Guild. This is how a film earns the “No Animals Were Harmed” certification mark. Filming of this particular scene took place in Winnipeg, Canada, and a Humane Society representative was on set. That person has since been suspended and a third-party is reviewing the incident.
The pool itself seems dangerous, powered by eight outboard motors that churned the water, and the moment the struggling dog disappears beneath the rapids is terrifying and heartbreaking. With the capabilities of modern special effects, it seems like a safer alternative could have been used to produce the needed shot.
People who have seen the footage are outraged, and the film’s one star rating on IMDB reflects that, with reviewers citing the alleged abuse. Many are calling for a boycott of the film, including PETA. Some organizations that are particularly affected by the footage include nonprofit shelters and rescue groups that planned to use the film screening as a fundraising event. Secondhand Hounds, a rescue group in Minnesota, planned one such event and incurred expenses for the venue. They took to Facebook to ask their followers for suggestions on how to proceed with the event.
Most of their fans called for the cancellation of the screening saying that they couldn’t see the movie after viewing the footage. Some called for the showing of a different movie or stated that they would donate to offset the cost of the venue.
The director of the film, Lasse Hallström, took to Twitter, saying, “I am very disturbed by the video…” and, “I did not witness these actions.” He stated that an investigation is underway and those responsible for wrongdoing will be punished.
A voice actor for the film who was never on set, Josh Gad, said in a Facebook post that he was “shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will.”
Though many dog lovers were excited for a film that honored dogs’ commitment and loyalty to their human friends, it seems that the reputation of A Dog’s Purpose has taken a big hit. It’s hard to say if there is any way to make amends to the animal rights community and concerned dog lovers.
Do you think the footage shows animal abuse? Will you be joining the boycott of the film? Let us know in the comments below!
UPDATE: Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment have cancelled the premier and press junket for A Dog’s Purpose. Universal released a statement that Amblin’s investigation is still ongoing, and they believe it is in the best interest of the film to cancel the event. The movie will still be released in theaters nationwide on January 27th.